January 24th Devotional

January 24, 2016

Good Morning everyone. We will sorely miss being together this morning. This reminds us about how wonderful it is to worship and study God’s Word together. I thought that I’d write down a few thoughts and share a Scripture or two as some ‘snowed in’ food for the morning.

And if you are missing the music this morning, there’s actually a way you can hear the songs we were going to sing this morning! If you are on Spotify (or sign up for the free service), you can follow our church account (hcfmusic). There is a playlist of today’s five songs listed with today’s date. In fact, Dana puts this together every week, so you can listen to the past Sunday’s music all week if you like. The recordings are by the original artists, but it is the closest we can get to having our worship time together today.

And if you have some time on a quiet day, I have a few thoughts I wrote down yesterday:

DEVOTIONAL

Storms and Fear

Dustin and I just got in from doing what probably many of you have been doing – about 2 hours of shoveling and snow-blowing. It made me think about storms. We have watched the forecast all week, so we knew this was coming, but we didn’t know exactly what it would be like. Turns out, this storm has pretty wet snow, so it makes the cleanup a bit more challenging. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be very sore in the morning!

Of course, we face storms in our lives all the time – MOST of them aren’t about the weather. Just like a coming snow storm, we may have an idea that something is coming, or we may be caught off-guard. We face storms in our school, in our work, in our marriages, in our friendships, in our parenting. Unexpected storms show up in our finances, in our health, and even just in the way we ‘feel’. Like the current storm, we know from experience that these storms can cause major damage and it can take a long time with lots of work to recover from them.

Where are the storms in your life? What is keeping you occupied? And maybe most importantly, what kind of effect is it having on your spiritual life? Is your connection with the Lord getting deeper and stronger, or is it bringing up huge questions for you in your faith? Are you feeling further away from Him than ever before, or closer to Him?

Sometimes, the storms are of our own making. We act in anger or impatience and create damage that can seem unrecoverable. Other times, storms spring up in our lives without any warning or any help from us. But either way, they can be overwhelming and damaging. When we are painfully aware of this reality, we start to react to storms (or even the threat of a storm) with some panic and fear.

There is a story in Mark 4 where Jesus leads His disciples into a storm. They react like we would. It reads like this:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Did you notice that Jesus led them right into the storm? And then fell asleep. You can imagine how quickly they connected these two actions and thought that Jesus didn’t care. But please also notice that Jesus didn’t leave them ALONE in the storm – He was right there with them in the middle of it. He has the power to calm the storm with just a single command.

So what can we learn from this? The end of the story with Jesus will always bring the end of your storm. It probably won’t end before you ask the question about whether or not He cares. And you’ll probably have plenty of time to panic. It will most likely look like the boat is going to be swamped. But Jesus always brings storms to an end. It is the hallmark promise of eternal life – no matter how damaging or severe our storms are in this life, they are but a moment compared to the hope we have in Jesus. And He is with us right in the middle of our storm. Never let the storm make you forget how much Jesus cares about you.

There’s one more thought I have in this. When the storm has raged on and doesn’t seem close to an end, there is another great truth in the Bible. Jesus gives us what we need in the storm. Think about it. Many look forward to snow storms like this – not because they aren’t dangerous or because they never cause damage. But for those people, when they think of the storm, they think of being safe and warm at home with nothing to do but enjoy the view and the quietness. Their mindset defines their outlook on the arrival and duration of the storm, and they ENJOY what others DREAD. Same storm, same threat, same challenges, but these people have a sense of safety while the storm rages on. This is a perfect picture of refuge! The Psalms use this word over and over again talking about how we can run to God in the storms.

For example, Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Many other Bible authors pick up this theme. Men like Isaiah who says in chapter 40, verse 11, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

It occurs to me that God never expected us to not feel fear when the storms of life come. But He does invite us to believe in our shelter. We don’t need the storm to stop to feel safe. We just need to be convinced that God is our refuge and strength. It’s very much like those who feel cozy and warm in their homes with the storm outside. There will be damage, delay, inconvenience, and even a lot of work to make up for the storm. But we can enjoy the warmth of knowing God as our refuge and shelter in the storm. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know it is an awesome thing.

Let me close with this… over the past week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about fear and faith. What I’ve found is that I tend to live ‘in fear’ whenever I allow the questions to fill up my mind. Basically what I mean is that I don’t have to feel like I’m doubting or afraid to let fear run my experience. If I let the questions dominate my thought patterns – even legitimate questions – then fear starts to direct the way I react, the way I speak, and the way I think. But if I recognize the trap of allowing those thoughts to be the main discussion in my head, I can choose to shift my focus from the storm to the One who is my confidence, my rock, my fortress. And the freedom that comes from that is a blessing beyond words.

Prayer: Lord, help us to rest in you no matter what storm we’re facing. Let us hear your voice and know your presence in the times when we face our biggest battles with fear and panic. Remind us of how you’ve walked with us through the dark times in our past, and refresh your promises in our soul. Give us the faith we need to find peace knowing you are our refuge.